I am writing today about doors. Why? Because I seem to be encountering a trail of thoughts about them.
Six days ago, driving on my way home from a coffee with the ‘gym girls’, I suddenly thought of the famous painting by William Holman Hunt, based on Christ’s words in Revelation 3:20, and named “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” The thought came from nowhere, but seemed to open the door (!) to a stream of thoughts and encounters with doors.
Five days previously we had returned from a lovely holiday in Derbyshire with friends, where we had stayed in a beautiful, recently converted Church. Preparing to go to Church on the Sunday morning, we found ourselves locked in our holiday home - this door was absolutely, definitely NOT going to open. (The locksmith later discovered all the metal work inside the lock crumbled away). The big double doors of the old church were still negotiable, and after struggling with locks, bolts, and metal bars, some of our party managed to exit and be on their way to worship, but we stayed behind, as there was no way, once out, of locking the building.
Back to last Wednesday and the sudden bursting in to my thought zone of Mr. Holman Hunt, or maybe, more accurately, Jesus.
Coming home and going to hang the washing out in the garden, what did I notice, leaning against our ‘waiting to be chopped’ pile of wood? A door. No hinges, nothing behind it but logs, paint peeling, glass broken. Where it came from, who put it there or gave it to us and when, I have no clue - but my senses became alert - what is all this with doors?
Later the same morning, I opened, rather randomly, a rather random book at a totally random page - to read these words from a prayer:
“Help me to listen to the signs of change, of growth;
To listen seriously and follow where they lead
Through the breath taking empty space of an open door”.
Now God had me seriously listening and questioning, I have been asking, praying, meditating - what are you saying Lord? To me? To the Church in Ipswich?
This morning (Tuesday May 9th) at the weekly IIP Leaders Prayer meeting, someone read the words of Revelation 3:20 from the Message version, in the middle of the meeting, as we prayed “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done”.
“The people I love, I call to account - prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best.
Up on your feet then! About face! Run after God!
Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.
Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honour at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors.
Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit being blown through the churches.”
This, I believe is what all the door encounters are pointing to, drawing attention to, shouting out loud.
“Listen”, Christ says, “Are your ears awake?”
As we approach the ten days of prayer from Ascension to Pentecost, and join in prayer as God’s people in Ipswich, and with God’s people across the nation, praying “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done”, let’s unwax our ears, open them up and listen.
The Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:13) said “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.
Are we - am I - ready to listen, to seek, to commit with all our heart, as together we respond to his call and open the door?
November 2016 saw the opening up of the Talitha Koum Hope Centre to provide a safe place for women to recover from addiction.
Ten years previously, Ipswich had been in the midst of tragedy, with the terrible loss of five young women. The journey towards The Hope Centre had begun even earlier than that. Looking back at IIP journals as we stood on the threshold of the opening this year, I discovered something very significant.
On January 1st 2004 in my journal I have written a short entry:
Look backward with gratitude;
Look forward with hope;
Look upward with confidence.
Continuing to read through the first six months of 2004, to rediscover the very beginning of the TK journey, was very uplifting because the seed that was to fall into the ground and grow into Talitha Koum and the Hope Centre, fell into a fertile field of prayer.
On Saturday 17th January 2004 I recorded that we met together at St Peters, Stoke Park for the 3rd "Crown Him with Many Crowns" event, where prayer was the major theme.
Prayer walls were building up well, with many many people signing up for a weekly 30 minute slot to pray for Ipswich, '40 days of prayer for Ipswich' booklets were selling like hot cakes, the prayer co-ordinator from the Evangelical Alliance came to speak, and the 1st Prayer School opened on February 2nd with 65 attendees from 14 different churches - "Lord, teach us to pray".
Looking on through the next couple of months, church leaders were gathering to pray on a monthly basis, young people were coming together regularly at Powersurge prayer events, Prayer Watch events were taking place, praying for specific areas of town life (education, police, etc)and regional prayer meetings were taking place regularly, as people travelled to Bury, Norwich and Diss to pray for East Anglia.
Later in the year, in May, we prayer walked the 24 miles of the town boundary as part of a week of prayer where prayer was taking place across the town in different venues every day. This prayer walk was followed by others around strategic areas of the town.
On March 11th 2004, right in the middle of this six month period, a visit took place from Liverpool by a lady called Sue, who leads Comunity Watchmen Ministries in Liverpool. Liverpool at the time was the drugs capital of the U.K., and God had called Sue and others to pray, and amazing things were happening. Today Liverpool is a very different place, both physically and spiritually - that is the power of prayer.
This led us to ask the question: How should we respond here in Ipswich? What was God asking of us?
On July 28th 2004, as a group of 7 ordinary people met to pray for the first time about this, a seed was planted, a vision was birthed - a residential centre, on a farm, where people could come for help, for prayer, for healing from addictive behaviours.
The verses that we were given on that day were the words of the prophet Isaiah, which Jesus himself quoted as he began his ministry.
'The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
And release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord's favour
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn,
And provide for those who grieve in Zion -
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour.' (Isaiah 61:1-3)
The vision for Talitha Koum (which means "little girl get up" as spoken by Jesus) was a God given vision.
Travel forward in time about two and a half years. Two weeks before the awful discovery of the first body, that of Gemma Adams on December 2nd 2006, I received an email. God had spoken to a local Christian farmer who was offering his land for the building of the now open Hope Centre.
Throughout Biblical narrative and human history, celebration and lamentation have walked side by side. In the midst of pain, God is present. Ten years on we remember, and we continue to pray for the families of Tania Nichol, Anneli Alderton, Gemma Adams, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell. We pray that God would comfort them in their ongoing pain, and that the Hope Centre would provide a lasting legacy, and hope for the future.
Sometimes God seems to take, in our economy, an awful long time to do things. But He is faithful, He is working in ways we do not see and are unable to comprehend. But that which He has planted, will come to fruition.
The Lord said to the prophet Habakkuk,
"Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time".
Many have run with the TK vision for many years, but the appointed time has arrived. We give thanks to a faithful, loving, restoring and releasing God and pray for each and every lady who comes in through the doors of the Hope Centre, that lives would be transformed.
Let's rediscover the power of prayer, seeking God's heart together, listening to Him, making ourselves available for that which He desires to do, in order that we would see His Kingdom come and His will be done here in Ipswich as it is in Heaven.
PRAYER, UNITY AND LOVE
Picture the scene. A group of people gathered together, waiting for what would be a new and powerful encounter with God: Acts 2 tells of the gathering in the Upper Room. Just as Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully among them and 'clothed them with power from on high'. What a transformation! This was a glorious fulfilment of prophecy and a demonstration of God's love.
Now fast forward to 1906...to another gathering of people in Los Angeles, USA. A small group of Christians had been meeting to pray for baptism in the Holy Spirit. They were in one accord and expectant for a new and powerful encounter with God. Slowly at first, one, then another, then more and more, were baptised in the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. Soon crowds gathered and people were overcome by God's presence and power even as they approached the building. The message of the meetings was one of love. There was unity in place of deep division. Healings and miracles took place and many were saved. Revival brings transformation.
The Azusa Street revival followed a similar outpouring in Wales in 1904-5. Around the world, others were experiencing the power of God, spreading from Azusa Street or rising up spontaneously. Although the intensity of this revival diminished over time, the legacy is felt to this day in churches and Christian groups around the world.
The hallmarks of these former revivals were prayer, unity and love - as a result of the hunger and desire for revival as well as in response to the Holy Spirit's outpouring. At a celebration of the 110th anniversary of the Azusa Street revival, earlier this year in Los Angeles, thousands of Christians gathered to pray in unity, with a focus on racial reconciliation, crying out for a spiritual revival to sweep across the nation. There were many reports of healings and powerful encounters with God during the meeting.
For those of us who long to see spiritual revival in our town and in our own nation, to bring transformation, restoration and healing to a broken world at a time of great uncertainty, let's come together now - in one accord and with expectancy - and pray fervently for unity and love across all churches and communities in our town.
Then our voices can be raised in unity to cry out 'Come Holy Spirit!'
Today, following the EU referendum, it's a time to remember faith, hope and love.
The uplifting response from the church in the UK is a call to show love and to pray for reconciliation. We have a message of hope that is constant and faith in a God who is good.
The subject of faith - and mountains - was the focus of the Heart for Ipswich leaders prayer meeting this week (June 21st 2016).
"Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God." E M Bounds.
A question we asked ourselves - "do I REALLY have the faith Jesus talks about?"
Jesus says that faith the size of a mustard seed moves mountains.... Mustard seeds are very small! Maybe I haven't yet reached a grain - or even a mustard seed - but I can start from where I am and pray that, with God's help, I will move up a little, and then a little more.
Help us Lord to stop operating in the "This is what I can do" zone, and to begin to look for the mountain moving God, getting on board with him in his removal business. Help us to start looking for the "slightly bigger things" than those we are already used to.
Help us not to take on mountains ourselves, just because we feel like it or think it would be good.
Remember the disciples were unable to cast a demon out of a boy but Jesus reminded them (and us) that nothing is impossible for God - be it moving mountains, stilling the winds and the seas, speaking light into being or raising the dead to life.
God is already moving mountains - sometimes we just don't see or recognise what is under our very nose. On Saturday Ipswich Town Pastors celebrated ten years of caring on the streets, and praying in the back room. At Christmas 2005, 12 people set out into Ipswich Town Centre, covering three very busy nights as a pilot project, prior to the 'official launch' of the project on June 23rd, 2006.
Ten years on, over 600 volunteers are active in Town Pastor projects across the county of Suffolk, and now spreading beyond. Prayer has been offered up night after night, weekend after weekend by our prayer teams, for ten years. That's approximately 1040 nights of prayer in Ipswich alone - approximately 6,240 hours of prayer; at least 49,920 man hours of prayer, based on a minimum of 8 people involved centrally or at home each shift.... And there's often double that number.
"All wonderful works depend on wonderful praying, and all praying is done in the name of Jesus Christ"
E M Bounds.
So does all this prayer and walking of the dark streets make a difference? Yes! On Saturday we heard from the Chief Constable who talked about responses by his officers when he asked them their opinions of the difference the Town Pastor scheme (in its entirety of prayer based action) makes, and the word used was 'awesome'. He spoke about prayer and his thoughts on the subject - very positive - and we heard about the huge number of incidents logged where TPs have reduced crime and impacted individual lives. Now, we believe, the whole culture of the Night Time Economy and binge drinking is changing across Suffolk. That's an answer on many levels to our prayer by the God who moves mountains.
If it was said in June 2005 that these would be outcomes in 10 years time would we have believed it? Probably not! The mustard seed of faith has certainly produced fruit. To God be the glory.
Welcome to the new Ipswich in Prayer website.
Many individuals, groups and churches have been praying collectively under the Ipswich in Prayer (IIP) banner since October 2000. We have seen many prayers answered and great encouragements, as well as challenges.
Some may remember the early days of our corporate story; others will have arrived in Ipswich more recently.
Our first event, an Evening of Prayer, was held in December 2000. We have gathered together many times since, as well as connecting by email, prayer walking, holding prayer schools and weekends of prayer.
We have taken a full part in national weeks of prayer and the Global Day of Prayer, as well as connecting with other prayer networks across England - a special hello today to Sue and the team in Liverpool.
Recently we have felt it right to 'reboot' Ipswich in Prayer, and the launching of this new website is a beginning. We hope everyone will feel that they belong, as we pray together for our town, and wait expectantly before God. Please keep in touch, and send us any words, pictures, prayer requests, events and feedback. Please also visit us regularly here so we can pray corporately, even when not physically gathered in one place.
We will use the blog to share reflections and thoughts from our prayer meetings and from the messages you share with us. We are also on facebook and on twitter.
Thank you for taking time to visit the website and more importantly to pray. We believe in a great and a good God who loves and longs to bless our town. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."